10 reactions people have to getting caught in their porn use

I wrote this list of reactions 10 reactions people have to getting caught in their porn use.
It struck me how similar it is to getting caught in an affair.

I’ve added a little more detail than the initial list I posted then.

Andee Zomerman saw this when I posted it on Facebook and she invited me on her local radio show The Rose City Forum to talk more about the list and the problem of porn. You can listen to the podcast here. I really appreciate Andee’s willingness to increase awareness of the problem on her show. (If you listen, you’ll see talking “about” porn and answering questions is outside my comfort zone. I’m much more comfortable asking the questions and listening in sessions.)

1) Lie – when porn use first comes to light, what’s you see is usually just the tip of the iceberg. And anyone cheating or using porn has been lying to you and themselves for awhile usually.  Porn is just a symptom, dealing with the problem is not just about stopping the behavior but getting the many factors that feed it. 

 

2) Minimize – the person caught will usually just admit to what they can’t deny, cover up or explain away. They’ll only fess up to what you have the the evidence on. And even with evidence, they may try to make you crazy and question your ability to see the evidence for what it is. They will also minimize or excuse and rationalize their behavior.  They will also try to minimize the damage it has done to themselves and those around them. 

3) Get angry, attack back – when backed into a corner and with the evidence mounting they may try to attack you, throw you off with their anger and cross-complaining.  If you tend to avoid conflict, they may try to use anger and intimidation to scare you and get you to back off and back down. Sometimes, the anger stems from fear. Fear of being found out, from all the truth of what they’ve worked so hard to hide and manage coming out. Fear of hurting you. Fear of what you will do. Fear of disappointing you. Fear of seeing the pain in your eyes. Fear of what they’ve been afraid of, for so long, coming true. Fear of being rejected and alone. So, sometimes that anger, that comes out, is really anger at themself for what they’ve done to the one they love.

4) Get depressed – this may be genuine but often more in a shame-based manipulative way to get you to not be hard on them and leave them alone.  This can look like playing a victim. And don’t get me wrong, very often those trapped in porn are in a very real and significant ways victims. Thing is, it is extremely difficult (maybe impossible, at first) to hold both the role of having healthy boundaries and being angry enough to confront them with the truth and break through the denial and lies, and the role of the empathetic, understanding supportive spouse, at the same time. That is why when porn use comes out it relationship, it can be helpful to not only have couples counseling but individual counseling support for the roller coaster of emotions that come out.

5) Blame – similar to getting angry but worth a separate note. Blame is making you the reason for their behavior. How what you do and say, or don’t do and say caused them to cheat or to view porn.  “If you were more interested in sex. If you weren’t so unavailable. If you hadn’t gained so much weight. I wouldn’t be tempted to use porn.” 

6) Get worse – this one is a big one, I’ve heard this a lot. Telling the truth is risky, often confronting someone about an affair or porn the offended person is afraid of the other person’s behavior getting worse. They are worried if they set boundaries, like a temporary separation, their spouse or partner will cheat more, get more self-destructive. If they set boundaries about intimacy, they will escalate and instead of viewing porn they will start going to strip clubs, or it’ll give them more of reason to turn to the other person for solace and intimacy or worse. And, the thing is, it’s true, they may. But it if they chose to make things worse instead of better it reveals a lot about their heart, commitment and willingness to change.

7) Leave, give up – similar to 6. Another fear of confrontation is that the person caught will just not want to make the effort to change and leave the marriage or relationship. Sometimes the pain of being alone seems worse than the pain of being cheated on.  After years of not being unsuccessful at breaking free from porn, it is easy to feel hopeless to change. Sometimes the pain and devestation that has occurred is overwhelming, instead of facing it and taking responsibility, running away seems like a much easier choice. 

8) Scramble to “get better” – sometimes someone gets caught and it is a bit of a wake up call. Thing is, just focusing on behavior, getting filters, Open DNS, accountability software, etc. doesn’t address the root issues. Patrick Carnes describes this as a first order change. Changing because they “should” or “have to”. These can be good, wise first steps but long-term recovery requires more.

9) Confess – disclosure is a start, taking responsibility, telling the truth and the whole truth, without distortion and minimization. But confession is not enough. Confession without action, a plan, support and accountability can just perpetuate the problem, repeat the cycle of best intentions, false starts, broken promises and failure.

10) Repent – starting recovery. This is moving from 1st order change to more internalized motivations for change, working on changing on the inside as well as the outside. Actions speak louder than words in restoring trust and relationship.

Listening back to the podcast and re-reading this list I realized this can come across as harsh, not very accepting or compassionate towards folks struggling with porn.  I have lots of empathy for those caught. I understand. They are who have spent most of the past 12 years sitting with and counseling. I will write another blog for resources for recovery soon.

What would you add to the list?

How does it strike you?

 

 

Published by

Sovann

Licensed professional counselor and health coach in Portland, OR
Pre-marital and couples counseling.
Individual counseling for anxiety, depression, insomnia, sleep disorders, sexual addiction, porn addiction, career, transitions, grief, burnout, personal growth.

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